Tag Archive for PatientSafety

How to Care for Your Central Line at Home

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Cancer or blood disorder patients may have central lines, which make it easier to receive certain medications (such as chemotherapy) and have blood tests. The major types of central lines include Port-A-Cath, Hickman, and peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC). Patients receiving stem cell transplants sometimes have central lines.

If you have a central line, you may need to care for it at home. Or you may need guidance in caring for a loved one with a central line. Knowing the correct procedures is essential to preventing infection. Read more

Revisiting Cancer Care in Rwanda: One Year Later

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By Lori Buswell, RN

I recently returned from a three-month rotation as a nurse fellow at a comprehensive cancer center at Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, a tiny African country known as the “land of a thousand hills.” The hospital, built and operated by the Ministry of Health and Partners In Health, is located in a rural, mountainous area where most residents are farmers. Because most homes do not have running water, people fill up 5-gallon jugs at the local water spigot. Read more

Dr. Jay Harris discusses the link between radiation therapy for breast cancer and heart disease

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By Robert Levy

In a recent study, Oxford University researchers reported that although radiation therapy is a critical tool for the treatment of women with breast cancer, it can also raise their risk of a heart attack or heart disease later in life. The study was based on a review of medical records of 2,168 women in Sweden and Denmark who received radiation therapy for breast cancer between 1958 and 2001, and who were under age 70 at the time.

News coverage of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has drawn new attention to the heart risks associated with radiation therapy even as it underscores such therapy’s role in improving survival rates for breast cancer patients.

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Better Coverage for Oral Chemo: Why It Matters

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When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an oral chemotherapy parity bill into law on January 5, Massachusetts joined more than 20 states requiring health plans to cover oral cancer pills at a rate no less favorable than standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. The new law tells insurers that they cannot require higher patient costs for oral chemotherapy, and it helps ensure that all forms of chemotherapy are accessible and affordable to Massachusetts cancer patients. Read more

How to Protect Cancer Patients from Flu

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by Saul Weingart, MD, PhD

Flu has arrived in the northeast with a vengeance. The City of Boston declared the flu epidemic a public health emergency. Perhaps someone you know has been sick with the flu.

Influenza can be serious for anyone, but for a cancer patient, the stakes are higher. Read more

Why You Need a Health Care Proxy

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What would happen if you were accidentally knocked unconscious and had to be taken to the emergency room? Would doctors know who to go to with questions about your care?

A health care proxy form is a legal document that names a trusted person who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. Read more

A focus on patient safety during radiation

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March 4-10 is Patient Safety Awareness Week; at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the top of our list 365 days a year. Here, we focus on one aspect of cancer treatment in which it’s especially important: radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy is common – about two-thirds of all cancer patients can expect it to be included in their care. And while radiation therapy has been used for 100 years, it’s understandable that the prospect might make you anxious, particularly with regard to safety concerns.

As with all aspects of cancer treatment at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the core of radiation oncology. It needs to be: We’re highly aware of the fact that once given, radiation cannot be taken back.

Radiation is delivered by linear accelerators, or LINACs. Teams of physicists and therapists put each machine through a regular schedule of performance tests – daily, monthly, and annually. Each also has built-in redundancies: If a LINAC machine is not performing to specifications, it will not deliver radiation.

But obviously we don’t leave everything to machines to ensure patient safety. Our team of physicians, physicists, and radiation therapists works closely together to plan and review each patient’s treatment, and each treatment calculation is checked and double-checked before being delivered to a patient.

Other checks can range from the seemingly mundane — we use photo IDs and barcodes so we know we’re delivering the right treatment to the right person — to the highly technical — we take X-rays or CT scans before treatment to make sure the beams are targeting accurately — but they’re all means to the same end: to ensure the safest and most effective treatment for our patients.

As radiation treatment becomes more complex, so do our safety checks. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to customize the dose by varying the amount of radiation given to different parts of the treatment area. Before any IMRT plan is delivered physicists perform “dry-runs,” that deliver and confirm the accuracy of the radiation dose, to ensure patient safety.

This focus on safety is a core value in the treatment of each patient and is a part of the very culture of the department.

Learn more about radiation safety measures at Dana-Farber.

 

 

Dana-Farber responds to national drug supply issues

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Recent concerns about availability and authenticity of certain drugs have generated news headlines worldwide and raised anxiety levels for some cancer patients and their families.

Sylvia Bartel, RPh, MHP, Dana-Farber’s vice president of Pharmacy, says that although the cause of the two problems is unrelated, it underscores the need for continuous and careful monitoring and management of the Institute’s medications. Read more